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How can you get better performance with your Internet connection?

You’ve seen the scam artist advertisements for software programs that do nothing more than install junk-ware on your system.

TV Ad for software that did little to help novice PC users

The thing to remember is that many times your PCs Internt connection is slow becausee of your DNS provider.

Now you might be thinking “what is DNS John?” and I would tell you that this is a good question .

DNS means Domain Name Service. It operates on your computer’s port 53 and acts as the phonebook for the Internet. Here’s how…when you want to order a pizza for dinner, you may have to look up the number to the pizza place online or from an ad that they placed on your doorknob. You do not instinctively know the phone number to the pizza place and that’s okay. It’s normal.

Well in the same way you do not have every phone number that you may need in a day memorized, computers do not keep a track of every possible web site you might want to go to in a day stored in them either. Sure, some days you may bounce from a cable news site to a cable weather outlet to an Internet storefront and finally finish up at an Internet movie house like Youtube.

All of these have an IP address and yes, the sites you visit the most often you might want to save their IP addresses in your hosts file. This can be found in a Windows system in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts (and note that this file DOES NOT have a file extension).

You can save them in this format:

tech.jchampion.com            50.87.150.160

Now for you to have a better list of sites that are available worldwide on a DNS server. You are no doubt using one of the ones that your Internet service provider told you to use. These DNS servers may use tricks so that in the event you mistype a domain name, you are redirected to a relatively safe site that is hosted by the ISP or the DNS service provider. Any link that appears on these pages that you click on, make money for the service provider and likely put some sort of tracking cookie on to your computer to follow your movements to similar sponsored sites across the vast internet.

One way to speed up your experience and maybe avoid the whole tracking thing, is to use a new DNS provider. I’ll bet you did not think that you could do that but you can?

Simply go your Internet settings on your computer (Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network Connections and choose whichever icon matches your Internet connection). Right click on this icon and select properties. Now select Internet Connection version 4 from the window that pops up and then click on the properties button that highlights directly below that selection box.

Another window will pop up that will give you some options on things to fill out. Leave the top of this window alone if your Internet/network connection is working fine. What you want to fill out is the section that says “Use the following DNS server addresses” — and now you get to fill in any of a series of numbers you like. It looks like this:

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you'll want to fill out.

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you’ll want to fill out.

The IP addresses to populate those boxes are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

Google also has a DNS service that is available for the public to use and you can certainly use their IP addresses, 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 . With these addresses you get away from your ISP’s control but at the same time Google does not provide any level of service to help control or customize your own experience.

A list of other IP addresses for publicly accessible DNS services are listed here — just be sure to check the companies providing the IP addresses that you can use before you use them. You never know what information they could be pushing you to. There is such a thing as DNS poisoning and it is bad.

By bad..I mean that you could think that you are paying for an Amazon or Bank payment service and instead your traffic is directed through JimBob and Bubba-Sue’s scam site that culls your credit card or payment information before passing it along to Amazon or your bank so your purchase goes through and you are unaware anything went wrong, until you see your credit card bill or get that dreaded call from credit card security services.

It’s something to be aware of but do not be afraid. Forge ahead.

My goal in giving you this information is to teach you how to improve things for yourself without needing to spend money on software that does nothing but further bog down your system and worse, entices you to remove files your computer needs to run.

Have fun, be smart, and be independent. There will be more tips coming soon!

 

 

Create a button to kill a pesky or stuck Chrome browser section

browsersSo..you go to a site to read an article on rooting your Android/Apple phone, you get creative and want the lyrics to a popular song, or you visit a news link to some new media site that you’ve never heard of before but it has a news item that you are interested in and it happens…a popup window in the middle of your screen and it is asking you to some task before you leave (and that includes clicking on a “CANCEL” button on the popup.

First off–DON’T CLICK ON ANYTHING within that browser window. Nothing there is good for you or your computer. Most of these sites are made with CSS, HTML5, and Javascripting. JavaScript has a feature that is deployed in every version and you cannot block it easily, called onUnload().

So no matter where you click on that page or even if you CTRL-ALT-DELETE, you may be subject to something being loaded on to your computer screen.
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Another scenario is that Chrome for some reason is just stuck and will not respond to your mouse clicks and you need it dead NOW!

Okay…I hear you…much in the same way we created a shortcut to kill off Internet Explorer under similar circumstances, we can create a shortcut for your desktop or taskbar that will immediately terminate Google Chrome and it will not trigger any onUnload() event that can harm your system.

So to stop myself from reinventing the wheel, I want you to go over this previous posting — http://tech.jchampion.com/?p=16 and follow the steps to the letter.

The only thing that we are going to change the command you paste into the command line area from “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM iexplore.exe /T” to “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM chrome.exe /T”

If you want to understand what all your instructions mean it is simple – taskkill.exe is the Windows commandline command to terminate a task by either process identification number or by name.

/F means to force it dead
/IM means the image name to kill
/T is telling taskkill to not only kill the program but any child programs that may have opened up as a result

This is quick, painless and easy. Just follow the steps from above and if you want instructions on all of Taskkill’s options use this TechNet link —

This works in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Server 2003, Server 2008, Server 2008r2, and Server 2012.

As usual…if you have any questions about this–just ask! Find me on Facebook, Twitter (@jachamp) or via this blog.

john

Windows 8 Tips and Shortcuts

Bugs Bunny -courtesy of Warner Bros.

Bugs Bunny -courtesy of Warner Bros.

One thing is definite in the world of IT: change.

Windows 8 is a massive step away from the way we were doing things just four or five months ago. As our laptops and desktops age, and we turn to retail sales outlets to provide us with our much needed “tech fix,” we also get saddled with Windows 8. While it is possible to downgrade your system to Windows 7, provided the company who made your system provides drivers for each component, it is simply easier to adjust and roll with Windows 8.

Now I’m not a fan of the OS. It’s got a learning curve and while it’s not ridiculous, it’s not exactly intuitive. So the trick is to make Windows 8 work for you and you alone.

Here is the first step… getting your start menu back. There are three ways to do this. Methods 1 & 3 are free. Method 1 requires you to do some keyboard work. Steps 2 and 3 require you to download and install software on to your computer that will create a start menu for you.

1) a) right click anywhere where there is empty space on your Windows task bar (that’s the thing on the bottom of the screen with the icons for all over your open and running programs).
b) hover your mouse up to the Toolbars and select New Toolbar from the resulting Window.
c) copy and paste this line and paste it into the select folder Window that pops up: %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and click on Select Folder.
d) Now you have a no-frills and free Start Menu with a list of your programs. You will have to move it over to the corner of the Task Bar wherever
you want it to reside.

2) Go to Stardock.com, pay $4.99 and download Start8. Install it and you’re good to go with something very similar to your old Windows 7, Vista, or XP start menu. It comes complete with file histories to make it easier to open files that you think are lost on your system.

3) Go to and download a free copy of ClassicShell. It not only gives you a Windows Start menu but it also gives you a chance to get rid of the Metro UI start screen. Again…it’s free and it works.

If you find anything else pretending to do the same thing, please be careful. A lot of malware is disguising itself as a free start menu or Metro UI interface remover.

Next time..we’ll talk about keyboard shortcuts that you can use to speed up your Windows 8 and maybe even your Windows 7 experience.

Windows 8: What It Is and Why You May Not Want It

I’ve been away from this blog for a while. Mostly because things have been in turmoil here at Casa de Campeogni. So today we are going to unravel Windows 8; what it is, how it works, where the experts say it is going to lead us to, and more importantly…do you need to run out and get a copy or if it comes on your new computer, do you need to wipe it out and downgrade back to Windows 7.

Hardware to firmware to EFI to the OS loads

Block diagram of the Intel and Microsoft UEFI firmware interface. This is stopping people from installing Linux on brand new computers the user has purchased.

First things first, if you are putting Windows 8 on an older system with an older motherboard and know how to properly configure your firewall, you’ll be in good enough shape to use it. I’ve been playing with it now since Beta 2 and I’m okay with the way it looks and feels. If you really want (or like me need) a “Start Menu” there are a couple of excellent utilities. The first is Start8 by Windows Blinds manufacturer, Stardock. It’s a $5 investment and in my humble estimation, worth it.

Option #2 a free version of a tool called Classic Shell created by a group of developers at MIT. It’s available at Sourceforge.net (links to both will be at the bottom of this article).

Functionality aside, let’s take a look at what is in it for Microsoft if you have a newer system and choose to stay with Windows 8. The crux of this argument is a replacement for your 30+ year old basic input output system (aka your BIOS). It’s old and it’s well passed its time in the sun. In the beginning it was never meant to be upgraded or flashed. Over the years, we just figured out ways to upgrade (flash) it and with that came a whole host of users who broke their computers (that is what happened to my last Sony laptop).

UEFI, uniform extensible firmware interface, is an upgradeable, programmable piece of software that runs before anything else does. With its current design and its current schema, when Microsoft and Intel (the only two companies planning the UEFI future currently), decide to ramp up the security and close off the Windows garden, and get updates on software signatures and approved license keys you’ll hear talk about using this to stop viruses, malware, spam, botnets, and other bad things we all loathe. When that happens, and it’s not a matter of if it will happen as much as it is a matter of when it will happen), many pirated copies of software will also cease running. Many bootleg copies of music, movies, or images will no longer be accessible. The possibilities for this technology is endless.

Sure..it’ll be Microsoft and Intel who will be doing the lion’s share of the work initially but with AMD, HP, Dell, Apple, and many many others onboard and the list growing, it is simply a matter of time before all major software manfacturer’s start paying the WinTel ransom to block their pirated software from running.

So…that’s part one of my theory on UEFI. If you have one, please let me know and I’ll post your 2¢ on its own separate post. I’ll write more about this issue next week…and I promise…no more long outages.

Things you don’t own anymore

It started with Microsoft and the notion of software licensing. It was a simple enough idea; since Microsoft wrote the code and owned it, their claim to ownership did not end when the user paid their hard earned money for it. No one really paid much attention to this at first because users never really pay attention to anything important beyond price.

So enter into the field other software companies who followed Microsoft’s model. The model remained the same, you pay a software manufacturer x-amount of money in order for the right to use their software. You do not own it. You cannot resell it. You cannot loan it out and your wife and children cannot legally put it on their computers if you have it installed on yours.

And by the mid-90’s users were not paying attention to the law and these software licenses. So other industries began using this model for their items.

Audio/video production companies, like Sony, MGM, and Universal Music Group, began implementing these policies with their media. Up until the mid-90’s, the idea of making copies of your cd’s, tapes, and albums, was normal and we all did it and shared those duplicates with family members but the media rights holders had different ideas and to quote Sony Music Group’s attorney, “copying music that you own,” for your own listening purposes, “is stealing.”

So where am I taking this? Today, Adobe software announced a new subscription plan for their industry leading, and pretty much monopolistic software. Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat, Flash, and other tools are seriously overpriced and are among the most pirated materials on the planet.

How bad is their plan? Would you be willing to pay $50/month-every month for the rest of your life, to use Adobe Photoshop? How about paying $139/month every month for the rest of your life for their creation suites?

Can you wait for the car industry, which has already jumped on board this, “you paid for it but you don’t own it” bandwagon, to join the subscription plan? Can you see paying $650/month, every month, for the rest of your driving life for the right to drive a Kia and $1200/month to drive a Ford F150? Wait for it..it’s coming because you don’t pay attention.

Today’s security tip of the day…

Today’s tip comes from the fine folks at SANS.org—

I have long hated Outlook’s preview pane but…it can be useful to a degree if you configure it properly. First things first…if your version of Outlook has the capability, turn off HTML emails and force them into plain text.

If you are using an older version of Outlook, or if you have managed to reset the security level for e-mails, then you may be at some risk for HTML script-based exploits. Auto-Preview displays the first three lines of the message, enough to identify whether the message is valid, and it displays faster. Here is how to use it.
Disable the Reading Pane and Enable Auto Preview:
1.Open Outlook.
2.Choose View -> Reading Pane -> Off
3.Choose View -> AutoPreview
4.Now you can see what is Junk, and which ones may have an HTML payload.

Build your own IE “eject” button

Sometimes Google sends you to sites where there is no safe place to click.

If you ever find yourself on a page that locks your browser up so that your only choice is to click on a site manufactured pop-up; then you need an eject button and I am going to show you how to make one.

Step one, right click anywhere on your desktop that is empty and choose Create New –> Shortcut

Kill IE shortcut button

An icon/button that you can use to shutdown IE safely

Now you need to give the shortcut some direction and tell it what to do. The command that you would type in DOS to kill IE is:

C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM iexplore.exe /T

So you need to enter this command into the Target field and then select okay.

Kill IE Screenshot 2

Adding in the command into the target field in Windows new shortcut

Next step–name the shortcut. I call it KillIE.exe

Kill IE Shortcut Screenshot 3

Name that new shortcut

Now you have a perfectly good shortcut to kill a locked browser safely. There is a technical reason why we will kill Internet Explorer in this manner but trust me, this is safer than use CTRL-ALT-DEL/task manager.

Why? Because this way is a rude way to exit IE. Task Manager uses a polite mechanism which politely unloads the content from the Windows. This polite manner gives scripts that lock up your browser a chance to save their place and store data on your computer. The Kill IE tool/shortcut not only simply kills the IE session, it can also be modified to work on Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and other browsers and it is safer because it does not allow a site to grab a foothold on your system.

Questions? Ask John